A few weeks ago, a narrow majority of British voters put an end
to the United Kingdom's participation in EU. This seemed to
shock observers—and markets—everywhere.
It is interesting to reflect on the issues that impacted the way
people voted. The factors are far from straightforward and
included; the availability of information, methods of
communication, deep conviction and generational bias. All this in
the mix with instinct and emotion.
Much has already been written about lessons learned from the
fall-out, titled variously "Lessons for Inter-American
dialogue"; "Lessons for New Zealand";
"Leadership lessons" and many, many more but are there
any lessons for family enterprises to learn too? Here Michelle
Osry, a partner in Deloitte in Canada, comments further:
I see at least 4 lessons for family enterprises.
1. Know what you're voting for
Family enterprises with complex issues need to ensure their
voting members have a solid grasp of the import and implications of
key choices in the family and the business. Doing so requires
investment in governance, mentorship, wealth literacy and
2. Be mindful of generational differences
Each generation is informed by their circumstances, motivations,
aspirations and fears which is critical to acknowledge for family
enterprises, whose members often span three or more generations.
For example, many of today's "Founding Generation"
tend to have a very defined sense of what is right and wrong,
valuing hard work and rules more than their Gen X, Y or Z
offspring. Follow-on generations may be more comfortable with
diversity and may be less willing to work the hours. Their
motivations also tend to be quite different: the first driven to
follow a dream, the other driven to find meaning in privileged
lives. Being mindful of the different drivers of each generation
allows families to anticipate, interpret and manage the
generational differences that could otherwise lead to frustration
and conflict, and quite possibly a polarized vote.
3. Don't shock the system
Economies don't respond well to shocks. Neither do family
enterprises, particularly those that encompass multiple
generations, diverse stakeholders and complex holdings. Even a
process intended for good can wreak unnecessary havoc on a family
and its wealth. Change may well be needed from time to time, but it
will more than likely require a measured and methodical approach.
Not a shock to the system
4. Emotion plays a big part
Finally, emotional engagement is of critical importance to the
voter. Family businesses who are often more comfortable with the
rational: estate planning, investment decisions, structuring of
assets, should also invest in the emotional (family dynamics and
communication styles). Attending to both is key.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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